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Free of carrier contracts and monthly plans, unlocked cell phones are rapidly gaining popularity among consumers. They're perfect for early adopters who like the latest and greatest smartphone, because they're easier to sell when the next new phone comes out. Plus, they allow you to pop your SIM card out and swap it for a different carrier if you switch cell phone providers or are traveling. Even better, they eliminate annoying carrier fees and ditch monthly installment plans.
The prices below are for unlocked, contract-free devices. Be sure to check your carrier's compatibility before making a purchase, as most unlocked phones are designed to work with T-Mobile and AT&T Wireless and their affiliate carriers. Only a handful of unlocked devices will work with Verizon and Sprint for the time being.
Shop the hottest unlocked phones available on the market below!
The iPhone Xs and iPhone Xs Max are the most powerful smartphones you can buy. They offer the perfect blend of design, craftsmanship, industry-crushing performance, as well as a seamlessly intuitive user experience. Compared to their predecessors, the new iPhones feature improved camera sensors, larger batteries, a newer and significantly faster processor, and are made with more durable glass.
They faired well in CNET's drop test and surprisingly did not crack after smashing into the concrete. The water-resistance rating of both the iPhone Xs and iPhone Xs Max has also been upgraded to IP68 (from IP67 in the iPhone X). It enables the phones to survive for up to half an hour in 2 meters of water (almost 7 feet), as well as spills from your favorite hot and cold beverages.
Samsung’s just-launched Galaxy Note9 delivers an ultra sharp 6.4-inch Infinity Super AMOLED display, a massive battery, and an S Pen stylus with Bluetooth connectivity. Plus, it has a powerful software suite that's yet to be matched by any competitor.
Its camera features two optically stabilized sensors — one wide-angled with dual aperture, and a separate telephoto lens. As you'd expect from a $1,000 phone, it supports wireless charging and has expandable memory, a waterproof body, built-in stereo speakers, and a standard audio jack. You can unlock the phone using your fingerprint or even an iris scanner.
The phone is powered by Qualcomm's latest and greatest Snapdragon 845 processor, and it's packed with 6 or 8 GB of RAM, with the former exclusively available with a whopping 512 GB of built-in storage (the variant with 6 GB of RAM comes with 128 GB of storage). With so much power, it's the first Android smartphone that can play the massively popular game Fortnite.
Related: Our Full Review of the Note9
Google Pixel 2 from $649.99
Google Pixel 2 XL from $790.00
The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL by Google are arguably the best Android smartphones you can buy. They combine powerful hardware, a long all-day battery life, and some of the best cameras in the business. Both smartphones feature an IP67 rating for water and dust resistance, a powerful Qualcomm chipset, a sharp OLED display, and stereo speakers.
They both run the most up-to-date Android version that’s available, and a nifty “Active Edge” feature that triggers the Google Assistant when you squeeze the phone’s metal frame so you can use your voice to ask questions and quickly get information. The Pixel 2 has a 5-inch screen with a 16:9 ratio, while the Pixel 2 XL sports a sharper 6-inch panel with an 18:9 aspect ratio.
One last thing, it's worth mentioning that Google is expected to launch new Pixel phones on October 9, so you may want to hold off on getting the Pixel 2 if you can.
This version of the Galaxy series has updated hardware over its predecessors that's headlined by a more powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chipset, an increase in RAM, and stereo speakers. You have the choice of a 6.2- or 5.8-inch bezel-less Infinity display. The larger S9+ model features dual 12 MP camera sensors, a larger battery, and 6 GB of RAM, while the smaller S9 just has a single sensor and 4 GB of RAM.
Both smartphones feature a waterproof body, expandable storage, and wireless charging. The new models feature a standard audio jack and come bundled with a nice pair of wired earbuds by AKG.
Externally, the iPhone 8 isn't all that different from the iPhone 7. However, it does ditch the aluminum body for a glass back to allow for wireless charging. Besides that, the smartphone still has the same 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch displays — depending on if you get the Plus variant or not — and both are still waterproof.
There are new gold and red color options for the iPhone 8, and it's equipped with better cameras with faster auto-focus and greater noise reduction, plus Apple’s speedy six-core A11 Bionic processor — the same one featured in the iPhone X. An all-new graphics chip is up to 30% faster than the previous model. It allows the phones to deliver gaming and augmented reality experiences with exceptional quality. Like its predecessor, the iPhone 8 doesn’t have a headphone jack, so you’ll need an adapter or a pair of Lightning headphones or wireless earbuds.
For now, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are the best cheap iPhones you can buy. However, you may want to wait and opt for the newer iPhone XR, instead. The phone will be released in October. It has a bigger and better display, increased battery life, and a faster processor.
If you want an unlocked smartphone that still has a headphone jack, this new Android phone from LG is a great pick. It's exceptionally crafted from metal and glass, which gives it a sleek look.
Like the iPhone X, it has a notch at the top of its display and is fully waterproof. The smartphone's 6.1-inch display offers an industry-leading maximum brightness of 1,000 nits, making it one of the best phones for outdoor use.
Other features include a dedicated hardware button for triggering its built-in Google Assistant. That way, you can easily take a selfie, get the weather, or set a reminder. Its camera isn't as impressive as the Galaxy S9 or Google Pixel 2, but it's packed with a more powerful processor, and an audio jack, making it an ideal option for audiophiles.
The OnePlus 6 offers a compelling blend of craftsmanship, power, and battery endurance that allow it to compete with much pricier offerings. The dual-camera device also offers a nearly bezel-less display and an elegant, glass-covered body.
Our only complaint is that this smartphone isn't completely waterproof like most other offerings in its price range. It is water-resistant, so it'll be OK in the rain, but you might want to check your pockets carefully before jumping into the pool.
There are two variants to pick from — one features 6 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage, and the other has 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage space. You have the choice of getting it in mirror black, midnight black, red, and silk white.
Sony Xperia XA2 from $289.99
Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra from $399.99
Believe it or not, these midrange phones from Sony are the tech giant’s first to ship stateside with fingerprint sensors (previous Xperia smartphones have omitted this commonly found feature).
Both models are equipped with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 630 processor, 32 GB of storage, and an impressive 23 MP camera. The XA2 Ultra offers dual front cameras, a bigger battery, and a larger 6-inch screen, compared to the XA2’s 5.2 inches.
If you want Sony's top-of-the-line smartphones, consider splurging for the Xperia XZ2, XZ2 Premium, or XZ2 Compact instead. They're powered by the latest processors, and they're packed with 19 MP cameras and up to 6 GB of RAM.
LG's range-topping G7 ThinQ smartphone packs a gorgeous edge-to-edge 6.1-inch QHD+ display into a refreshingly compact waterproof body. It’s one of the few modern smartphones that still has a headphone jack and expandable memory. The rest of the unlocked device's features include a powerful Qualcomm processor, a sophisticated dual-camera setup, and wireless charging.
What we love most about the G7 is that it can still be held comfortably one-handed. Other phones can feel bulky, but this one has a tall and skinny design.
The Nokia 6.1 is an impressive budget smartphone that's equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 processor, 3 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of storage. It sports a polished design, features copper accents, and has a built-in fingerprint sensor. Unfortunately, this smartphone only works with GSM carriers, so if you use Verizon or Sprint, you better look elsewhere.
Regardless, it offers a vibrant LCD screen, has a decent camera, and, best of all, it costs less than half the price of most other high-end smartphones.
Lenovo's Moto X4 has a cool design, top-shelf hardware, and an ultra slim body with excellent build quality. It runs Google's newer Oreo operating system, and it's water-resistant. Other features include a 16 MP front-facing camera, dual rear cameras, and support for Amazon's Alexa assistant.